Maputo — Mozambique's former Labour Minister, Helena Taipo, already under detention accused of the theft of the equivalent of 1.6 million US dollars from the National Social Security Institute (INSS), is now facing further charges brought against her by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC).
The new charges refer to a corrupt scheme which allegedly drained 113 million meticais (about 1.85 million dollars at current exchange rates) from the coffers of her Ministry's Migrant Labour Directorate (DTM) between 2010 and 2014.
This money came from contributions made by Mozambican miners working in South Africa and from the hiring of foreign labour inside Mozambique.
According to a summary of the charges in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias", the money was used to acquire vehicles, buildings, alcoholic drinks and Christmas gifts, without any legal basis for these purchases.
Taipo is the most prominent of 12 people accused in this case. The others include Pedro Taimo, the former coordinator of mineworkers' projects in the DTM, Anastacia Zita, the former director of the unit, Jose Monjane, the former head of its finance department, and Sidonio Manuel, a staff member in Taipo's office.
The charges against the accused include embezzlement, illicit participation in business, abuse of trust, and forgery.
In the 2010-14 period the DTM operated 14 bank accounts, 13 of which were used for the money intended to pay that part of their wages which the migrant mineworkers received when they returned to Mozambique, and for the social security payments of these workers and their dependents. These accounts were also used to hold revenue from the contracting of foreign labour inside Mozambique.
Only one DTM account was used to handle funds allocated from the Mozambican State Budget.
The use of the money held in the 13 accounts was authorised by Taipo herself - even though this should have been the responsibility of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry.
Money was taken out in large amounts of cash that were stored in the DTM, from which it was passed on to beneficiaries in the scheme.
Some of the accused, in addition to making cash withdrawals, invited relatives to pass themselves off as suppliers. They then received part of the money thanks to the use of forged invoices and receipts.
Cheques were also used in the fraud. They were issued improperly to the accused, to their relatives and to companies owned by those relatives.
Taipo was Labour Minister in the governments headed by President Armando Guebuza between 2005 and 2015. Under Guebuza's successor, Filipe Nyusi she was appointed governor of Sofala province, and then ambassador to Angola. Nyusi sacked her in March, after the initial findings were published from the GCCC's investigations.